Scientists Develop a Technique Turning Trash Into Valuable Graphene in a Flash

Monday, February 24, 2020 - 12:23

Rice University researchers have developed a technique which is turning crbon black powder into graphene in a burst of light and heat.

According to the Scitech Daily report, flash graphene turns any carbon source into the valuable 2D material in 10 milliseconds.

A new process introduced by the Rice University lab of chemist James Tour can turn bulk quantities of just about any carbon source into valuable graphene flakes. The process is quick and cheap; Tour said the “flash graphene” technique can convert a ton of coal, waste food or plastic into graphene for a fraction of the cost used by other bulk graphene-producing methods.

“This is a big deal,” Tour said. “The world throws out 30% to 40% of all food, because it goes bad, and plastic waste is of worldwide concern. We’ve already proven that any solid carbon-based matter, including mixed plastic waste and rubber tires, can be turned into graphene.”

As reported in Nature, flash graphene is made in 10 milliseconds by heating carbon-containing materials to 3,000 Kelvin (about 5,000 degrees Fahrenheit). The source material can be nearly anything with carbon content. Waste food, plastic waste, petroleum coke, coal, wood clippings and biochar are prime candidates, Tour said.

Tour said a concentration of as little as 0.1% of flash graphene in the cement used to bind concrete could lessen its massive environmental impact by a third. Production of cement reportedly emits as much as 8% of human-made carbon dioxide every year.

“By strengthening concrete with graphene, we could use less concrete for building, and it would cost less to manufacture and less to transport,” he said. “Essentially, we’re trapping greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide and methane that waste food would have emitted in landfills. We are converting those carbons into graphene and adding that graphene to concrete, thereby lowering the amount of carbon dioxide generated in concrete manufacture. It’s a win-win environmental scenario using graphene.”

“Turning trash to treasure is a key to the circular economy,” said co-corresponding author Rouzbeh Shahsavari, an adjunct assistant professor of civil and environmental engineering and of materials science and nanoengineering at Rice and president of C-Crete Technologies. “Here, graphene acts both as a 2D template and a reinforcing agent that controls cement hydration and subsequent strength development.”

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